Christina Rossetti: Poems

Songs In A Cornfield

A song in a cornfield

Where corn begins to fall,

Where reapers are reaping,

Reaping one, reaping all.

Sing pretty Lettice,

Sing Rachel, sing May;

Only Marian cannot sing

While her sweetheart's away.

Where is he gone to

And why does he stay? 10

He came across the green sea

But for a day,

Across the deep green sea

To help with the hay.

His hair was curly yellow

And his eyes were grey,

He laughed a merry laugh

And said a sweet say.

Where is he gone to

That he comes not home? 20

To-day or to-morrow

He surely will come.

Let him haste to joy

Lest he lag for sorrow,

For one weeps to-day

Who'll not weep to-morrow:

To-day she must weep

For gnawing sorrow,

To-night she may sleep

And not wake to-morrow. 30

May sang with Rachel

In the waxing warm weather,

Lettice sang with them,

They sang all together:--

'Take the wheat in your arm

Whilst day is broad above,

Take the wheat to your bosom,

But not a false love.

Out in the fields

Summer heat gloweth, 40

Out in the fields

Summer wind bloweth,

Out in the fields

Summer friend showeth,

Out in the fields

Summer wheat groweth;

But in the winter

When summer heat is dead

And summer wind has veered

And summer friend has fled, 50

Only summer wheat remaineth,

White cakes and bread.

Take the wheat, clasp the wheat

That's food for maid and dove;

Take the wheat to your bosom,

But not a false false love.'

A silence of full noontide heat

Grew on them at their toil:

The farmer's dog woke up from sleep,

The green snake hid her coil. 60

Where grass stood thickest, bird and beast

Sought shadows as they could,

The reaping men and women paused

And sat down where they stood;

They ate and drank and were refreshed,

For rest from toil is good.

While the reapers took their ease,

Their sickles lying by,

Rachel sang a second strain,

And singing seemed to sigh:-- 70

'There goes the swallow--

Could we but follow!

Hasty swallow stay,

Point us out the way;

Look back swallow, turn back swallow, stop swallow.

'There went the swallow--

Too late to follow:

Lost our note of way,

Lost our chance to-day;

Good bye swallow, sunny swallow, wise swallow. 80

'After the swallow

All sweet things follow:

All things go their way,

Only we must stay,

Must not follow; good bye swallow, good swallow.'

Then listless Marian raised her head

Among the nodding sheaves;

Her voice was sweeter than that voice;

She sang like one who grieves:

Her voice was sweeter than its wont 90

Among the nodding sheaves;

All wondered while they heard her sing

Like one who hopes and grieves:--

'Deeper than the hail can smite,

Deeper than the frost can bite,

Deep asleep through day and night,

Our delight.

'Now thy sleep no pang can break,

No to-morrow bid thee wake,

Not our sobs who sit and ache 100

For thy sake.

'Is it dark or light below?

Oh, but is it cold like snow?

Dost thou feel the green things grow

Fast or slow?

'Is it warm or cold beneath,

Oh, but is it cold like death?

Cold like death, without a breath,

Cold like death?'

If he comes to-day 110

He will find her weeping;

If he comes to-morrow

He will find her sleeping;

If he comes the next day

He'll not find her at all,

He may tear his curling hair,

Beat his breast and call.